Tea is an aromatic stimulant containing various polyphenols, essential oils and caffeine. The tea plant itself is Camellia sinensis, a native of Southeast Asia. Tea brewed from dried leaves of this plant has been drunk in China since the 10th century BC. Tea is drunk by about half of the world’s population, and China, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are the main producers of tea. Leaf buds and young leaves, called tips, are also used in making tea, the age and size of the leaves determine the taste and name of the particular commercial variety.


History of Tea

A Chinese emperor was boiling drinking water, and some leaves from a nearby Camellia plant floated into the pot. The emperor drank the mixture, and declared it to give vigor and contentment to the body. As testament to this, tea is second only to water in worldwide consumption. In the US, 2.25 billion gallons of tea are drunk in one form or another, whether it be hot, iced, flavored or spiced.


Medical Benefits of Tea

Recent research suggests drinking tea may help prevent everything from cavities to Parkinson’s disease. Below are some of the conditions that may be prevented by drinking tea:

Arthritis: Research suggests that older women who drink tea are 60% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Bone Density: Drinking tea regularly may produce stronger bones, leading to higher bone mineral density in one’s spine.

Cancer: Green tea extracts were found to inhibit growth of bladder cancer cells in the lab, while other studies suggest that drinking green tea protects against developing stomach and esophageal cancers.

Flu: You may be able to boost your fight against flu with black tea. In a recent study, people who gargled with a black tea extract solution twice a day showed a higher immunity to the flu virus.

Heart Disease: A recent study suggested that drinking more than two cups a day of tea decreases the risk of death following a heart attack by 44%. Tea is a rich source of flavonoids, and high dietary intake is associated with reduced risk of fatal heart attacks.

High Blood Pressure: Drinking a half cup of green or oolong tea per day reduces a person’s risk of high blood pressure by almost 50%.

Oral Health: Rinsing with black tea may prevent cavities and gum disease.

Immune Health: Tea has been shown to boost the body’s defense mechanism against many other illnesses.


What’s Responsible for Tea’s Many Health Benefits?

It is the chemical flavonoids and polyphenols in tea, both natural classes of antioxidants, that rid the body of molecules called free radicals, which are by-products of damage done to the body by pollution and the natural aging process. Hibiscus teas contain a number of different antioxidants that may help to protect against cell damaging free radicals, you can find hibiscus in such teas as sour tea, red zinger tea and sorrel tea. Black and green both have different types of antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.


Green Tea vs. Black Tea

Black, green and herbal teas are all made from the plant, Camellia sinensis, but differ in their methods of preparation. All tea leaves are withered, rolled and heated, but black teas go through an oxidative process called fermentation before the final heating step.

Herbal teas are not derived from the above mentioned plant but from leaves, bark, roots, seeds and flowers of other plants. Oolong teas are not really associated with the many healing benefits that black and green teas have.

Green tea, which can be drunk or swallowed in the form of a capsule or tablet, is thought to reduce the risk of cancer, lower lipid (cholesterol) blood levels, prevent dental cavities and treat stomach ailments, such as diarrhea and vomiting. There are some possible side effects, however. Drinking large amounts of green tea may cause heartburn, stomach irritation and loss of appetite. Green tea has caffeine in it, which could also cause nervousness, insomnia, frequent urination and increase in blood pressure.

Green tea is the best food source of a chemical group called catechins. In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties as well. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.

Additional benefits for regular consumers of green and black teas include a reduced risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and improve artery function.


Are All Teas Equally Good for the Body?

This is a question researchers are still squabbling over. Does green tea have more antioxidants than black tea? Should I drink instant tea or loose leaf tea for better health benefits? Is hot tea better than iced tea? Here’s what it comes down to:

  • Higher quality teas may have more catechin antioxidants than lower quality teas.
  • White tea has more antioxidants than any other tea.
  • Green tea has more catechin antioxidants than black tea since black tea goes through more processing.
  • Unfermented rooibos tea has more polyphenol antioxidants than fermented rooibos.
  • Freshly brewed teas have more polyphenol antioxidants than instant or bottled teas.
  • More researchers seem to agree that brewed (cold or hot) or caffeinated tea has more antioxidants than instant teas.


How to Brew a Better Cup

In green-tea drinking cultures, the usual amount is three cups per day. Allow tea to steep for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins. Tea can impede the absorption of iron from fruits and vegetables, but adding lemon or milk or drinking tea between meals will counteract this problem.

Anyone can boil water and make tea. However, there is more to making a truly savory cup of tea, which requires the following:

  1. Use the best quality tea leaves.
  2. Use a teapot, not a microwave! Once water is boiling, take off the heat and place one teabag for each cup in the pot. Use five teabags for about 30 fl. oz. of water.
  3. Allow tea to steep without stirring for three to five minutes, depending on the strength you prefer.
  4. After steeping, remove teabags without squeezing them.
  5. Pour hot tea in a cup and enjoy!!! There is a world of difference in the true flavor of fine tea if it is prepared correctly.


IFANCA Certified Tea Companies:

China Mist Tea Company, USA

International Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, USA